Continuous data protection (CDP) grows up, finds friends

Continuous data protection (CDP) has matured and is now a viable complement to current backup regimes.

Before most people ever heard of data deduplication, continuous data protection (CDP) was all the rage for disk-based backup three years ago. But unlike dedupe, continuous data protection never made a great impact on traditional data backup and recovery products. Instead, larger vendors scooped up many of the startups, and not always primarily for their CDP capabilities.

Now that continuous data protection technology – which captures every write I/O and data change, giving users the ability to roll back to any previous point in time – has largely evolved into a feature of backup and replication products, it's starting to see an uptick in usage.

A SearchStorage purchasing survey conducted in March showed that 20% of the 657 IT professionals who responded either have implemented continuous data protection or plan to do so this year. Another 35% indicated they would evaluate CDP this year, and 18.33% percent said they would spend more on CDP this year compared to 9.56% who said they would spend less on CDP than last year.

CDP used for operational recovery

EMC has been able to quantify the increase in continuous data protection adoption because the customers of its RecoverPoint data protection software must license continuous data protection separately. When EMC acquired its RecoverPoint product by buying Kashya in 2006, most customers used the product strictly for remote replication. At that time, only about 5% of the installed base licensed CDP.

But by the end of last year, 15% of the installed base licensed CDP. That number continues to grow, according to Rick Walsworth, EMC's director of product marketing for cross-platform replication solutions.

"Where we see CDP being deployed is really as part of a broader data protection strategy that includes CDP for operational recovery," Walsworth said, noting that the strategy also includes disaster recovery, business continuity, backup and even archiving.

Prior to 2008, RecoverPoint customers had to choose continuous data protection or remote replication on a given data set. But now that EMC has integrated remote replication with CDP, more customers use CDP locally in addition to remote replication for disaster recovery. Through 2008, the CDP licenses were split roughly even between CDP-only and CDP with remote replication, Walsworth said.

Walsworth said continuous data protection is most often used with Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange Server, SAP AG ERP applications and Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Corp. databases, for which it can provide real-time recovery in the event of problems such as data corruption, software errors or a virus.

CDP still often in planning stage

Explosives maker Dyno Nobel is considering combining RecoverPoint's CDP and continuous remote replication (CRR) to eliminate backups. Gary Eckman, IT infrastructure lead at Dyno Nobel, says the combined technologies would leave one full set of data locally and one full set of data remotely.

That would let him repurpose the disk he's using for backup. However, the plan is still on the drawing board.

"We're still in the conceptual phase. I don't know anybody who's done it yet," Eckman said. He added, "Not until the industry makes a move will I make a move."

Trigon Holding IS administrator Adam Vogini said he had no interest in CDP as a standalone product because of cost, but jumped at the chance to upgrade to Symantec's Backup Exec 11d once it came bundled with CDP. However, Vogini said he was forced to uninstall the product's agent after it caused Exchange Server to crash. He said he plans to try the latest version of Backup Exec with CDP as soon it supports Trigon's antivirus software.

No shortage of continuous data protection options

Other products available with block-level continuous data protection near-CDP functionality includes BakBone Software's NetVault FASTRecover (NVFR), CA's XOSoft, Double-Take Software's Backup, FalconStor Software's Continuous Data Protector, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack, InMage Systems' DR-Scout and Microsoft's Data Protection Manager.

File-level CDP products for desktops and laptops include Atempo's Live Backup, Barracuda Networks Inc.'s Yosemite FileKeeper and IBM Tivoli CDP for Files.

Hosted service providers offering CDP capability include Asigra Inc., i365 and Iron Mountain Inc.

Early failings led to low adoption

Gartner Inc. research vice president Dave Russell said continuous data protection failed to take off originally because it was sold at first by small, unproven private companies and organisations were not willing to use standalone products they had to install and manage separate from their main backup applications.

Lauren Whitehouse of Enterprise Strategy Group added that customers will not rip out backup software they already have in place. But, companies with no backup solution in place may consider CDP.

"Previously the integration with all the functionality we desired wasn't there in a single solution," Scott Stellmon, a systems architect at The Children's Health Council, wrote via email. He said the organization is currently testing Symantec's Backup Exec and looking into other products as well.

"My biggest concerns are performance, additional equipment cost, security and scalability," Stellmon added. "With the added security, I'm not sure how things will perform. Also, if I put this into production, it will need to be highly reliable/available, increasing the complexity and cost of our infrastructure. So, I'm not sure if I can truly justify it yet."

Donald Wilkins, director of IT at Navicure noted via email that the medical claims processing company started using Atempo's Live Backup for critical personnel after hard disk failures caused some loss of productivity. But Wilkins foresees less need for continuous data protection in the future, as his company entertains other desktop technologies such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which would allow for "SAN-based protections, giving less overhead and subsequently better performance as well as improved disaster recovery/continuity features."

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